love, short fiction, women

the field where they met

industrial_fields_2__the_colony__by_markusvogt-dcbjo16.jpg

 https://www.deviantart.com/art/Industrial-Fields-2-The-Colony-744987498

 

He pulled himself out of the earth. It was night, but he looked up, dismayed not to see the stars to guide his way.

 

He brushed himself down, letting the cool air kiss his skin before he left his bed behind him. The world was different, sour with a sickness which laid heavy on his soul. He found a river and washed himself, combing out his beard and laying on the banks until his skin dried in the loving kiss of dawn. There were trees here, and he found roots and berries to ease the hollow ache of hunger in his stomach. His head was full with her and it was a hunger which built with each passing moment.

 

He watched a squalid knot of people shuffle past, wrapped in sheets and passing a pipe between them, holding it to their mouths as they sucked down medicine to ease their pain. They shouldered bows, and he saw knives on their belts. Their eyes were dull, and he noted the dull, red sores on their lips and cheeks.

 

It would have been foolish to approach them. Weakness made people dangerous, and he had no interest in fighting.

 

Her absence pulled at him, and he followed it through the woods and out into the world.

 

2.

 

It had been during a harvest where he wandered into the world of men, leaving no trace of his presence beyond footprints. He watched them crown a young man, representative of a plea to their Gods for a bountiful harvest and decided it would be a good year for these people.

 

He saw her across the village green. She recognised him without fear or awe, and when she walked towards him, he raised an eyebrow at her boldness.

 

‘My grandfather saw you once.’ she said.

 

He narrowed his eyes as he looked at her face, compared it to his own memories and recalled the man.

 

‘How is John?’ he said.

 

She blushed and looked away.

 

‘He died last winter. He prayed to you, but you did not come.’ she said.

 

He shook his head.

 

‘There are places prayer does not reach us. When I return home, I will look for him.’ he said.

 

She scowled and walked away. He watched her sway and enjoyed it as he drank and watched the young man get up from the throne, flushed with the thrill of ritual as maidens guided him into the crowd.

 

Night fell. He sat by the fire, watching the flames feed on the wood when she found him.

 

‘He didn’t pray for you. He broke wind, rolled over and died.’ she said.

 

He pressed his lips together and pinched the bridge of his nose to hide his laughter.

 

‘It’s more tribute than a god deserves.’  he said.

 

He enjoyed the smile, her lips pulled back over her teeth, eyes alive with a dancing, smart amusement and a challenge implicit in her expression as he got to his feet.

 

‘You’re Barbaraline.’ he said.

 

She grimaced and shook her head.

 

‘Don’t do that. Speak what’s on your mind, not mine.’ she said.

 

He moved towards her, and she held her ground.

 

‘You don’t want to know what a god thinks.’ he said.

 

She turned and wandered away, looking over her shoulder and grinning with a playfulness which inflamed his senses.

 

‘No, I want to know what he does.’ she said.

 

He returned when his duties allowed. They used one another with gratitude and fervour, and with each visit, they became tender with one another, serving and being served. He fed her animals and rubbed her feet, she cooked for him and shared her knowledge with him. At night, they laid together and spoke of the future.

 

When his father announced a final battle against the titans of chaos at the edge of the world, he laid plans for his return.

 

They might not be the same people, but they saw the spark within one another. Between his divinity and her magic, they concocted a means for his return, and their reunion.

 

They walked deep into the forest, holding hands as they focused on particular memories of one another.

 

For her, it was his face, the gentle smile when she set down a plate of food for him and the appreciative noises he made as he ate. She missed the calm he exuded even as they enjoyed it for the last time.

 

He thought of her face as they made love. The smell of her neck and when she educated him on the uses of herbs and plants were indivisible.

 

The ritual was brief but intense. He would return if he fell in battle and find her again.  They returned to the house, made love until dawn and he made her tea before he left. She watched him leave from the doorway, hand resting over her stomach, full of him but missing him with each step he took away.

 

3.

 

He crouched behind the remains of a pillar, clutched his sword to his chest and watched his brothers and sisters die.

 

Dire staggered backwards, clutching at his head whilst his brain boiled inside his skull.

 

Hermes was still, the golden contents of his stomach strewn about him, gutted by a titan’s blade.

 

He ran, took out a titan with a downward slice of his sword which split its chest in two before he leapt towards his father’s side. The titan cannons spat fire into their ranks, decimating their shield wall in a single wave of flame. His father spat blood down his thick, white beard as he hefted his hammer and charged the remaining titans.

 

He took a blast of fire to his leg and fell as he swept the blade in a clean arc before him. It was over, and the last of the titans fell.

 

He rolled onto his back and felt his father reach for him as his vision blurred.

 

‘You’ve been a good son.’ his father said.

 

He hoped he would return to tell Barbaraline this when he saw her again.

 

4.

 

The sounds of industry rang out as he walked into a place he loved but no longer recognised.

The land was littered with squat, dark buildings like scabs on the skin of the earth. Each of them belched smoke which clung to everything and there was no corn in his path. He kneeled down and ran the soil through his fingers. It clung in damp clots and stained his fingers before he wiped them on his knee and stood up.

 

He felt for her, a faint pulse, like the memory of a private joke or a good meal.

 

He saw the creature on the roof stretch out black gleaming wings as it revealed a mouthful of sharp, white teeth. It hissed at him and he turned around to face it.

 

‘I don’t wish to fight you.’ he said.

 

The creature hissed and tested the strength of its wings in sharp, snapping movements.

 

It took to the air and dived towards him, sinuous and elegant even as it came for him with murder in its eyes. He waited until the last moment before he wrapped his arms around its head and neck, thrust his hips and swung his legs around its midsection. A single sustained squeeze of his arms and thighs snapped its neck and they fell to the earth together. He wiped the yellow blood from his arm and looked at the creature. He had fought the titans to save this world, but had abandoned her to a worse fate than the titans.

 

She called to him and he hunted for her.

 

The loving machine trees which fired explosive acorns in rapid flurries which exploded behind him. He made peace with them before they hosted him in their great halls, made from volunteers who sacrificed their flesh for the comfort of others.

 

An army of men who all wore the same face, spoke with one voice as they overwhelmed him. He escaped and won a duel with their leader. Upon his death, each of them disappeared and he stood alone in an empty arena. Two days later, he climbed out and felt her pulse, close as his own.

 

The earth was sick and strange, but when he saw the small house and heard the bleating and barking of animals, he ran towards it, guided by the depth of feeling he held for her.

 

His breath whipped from his lungs as he collapsed to the ground. Looking up, he saw something shift towards him, muscles glinting in the afternoon light and he drew his sword, ready to meet it.

 

It drove fists into his sides until he coughed blood as his sword fell from his grasp. He caught a glancing blow off his head which made him unsteady before he caught the thing’s wrist between his hands and wrenched it towards him. The wet crack of bone rang loud in his ears but not as loud as the thing’s screams. It begged for mercy in a language he did not speak but the tone was clear and he sent it on its way.

 

It proved difficult to stand up, but he did. Someone stood in the doorway and he heard his name called, in a quiet wondrous disbelief.

 

He made it a few more steps before the earth rushed up to claim him. It was faster than she could run but he felt her hand at his cheek and the soft brush of her lips against his before his body surrendered to his injuries.

 

She buried him. The words came to her with ease, and yet she wept with frustration. Her life was warm and quiet, full, but he had kept his word and she bore his absence for another cycle. Her hips ached and there was the space at the table to endure, but she went out, felt baptised by the rough tongues of her animals against her palm and wept.

 

A prayer for his return, and a memory of the corn waving as they walked together, before she slept and dreamed of his return.

 

He pulled himself out of the earth. It was night, but he looked up, dismayed not to see the stars to guide his way.

 

‘This time.’ he said.

 

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